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Counting underway after polling ends in largely peaceful countrywide cantonment elections

Counting underway after polling ends in largely peaceful countrywide cantonment elections

The counting of votes is underway after polling ended for election on 206 general seats in as many wards of 39 cantonment boards across the country.

No major incidents of violence or disruption were reported in what was the first electoral contest at the grassroots level between arch political rivals since the 2018 general elections. Polling started at 8am and continued without any break till 5pm.

More than 1,500 candidates fielded by all leading political parties are vying for the 206 seats, but the main battle was expected among the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), PML-N and PPP, Dawn reported.

Nationalist and religious parties, including the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), are also in the field with a good number of candidates in all the four provinces. Interestingly, all the parties participated in the elections without forming any alliance.

There are 219 wards in 42 cantonment boards all over the country, but no polling was scheduled in any of the nine wards of Kamra, Cherat and Murree Gallies cantonments, where either the candidates have been elected unopposed or polling has been postponed. Besides, there were no elections in four other wards of various cantonment boards where candidates have already returned unopposed.

Polling remained largely peaceful in cantonments across Punjab, with the provincial election commissioner expressing satisfaction over voting and security arrangements.

Authorities decided not to extend the polling time, but voters present inside polling stations were allowed to cast their votes beyond 5pm.

In Multan, a clash broke out between some persons at ward no. 4 but police quickly took control of the situation. The people involved in the fighting were expelled from the polling station and voting resumed.

Meanwhile, in Walton Cantonment outside Lahore, polling was postponed in ward no. 7 due to the death of an independent candidate, Sadaqat Mehmood Butt.

Although no major untoward incidents were reported in Sindh, the PPP sent a number of letters to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) complaining about lawmakers — mostly from the PTI — visiting polling stations in Karachi and the party's polling agents not being allowed to enter.

In another letter, PPP's Taj Haider expressed concern over "alarming reports" according to which he said the party's opponents had planned to rig the election in three wards of Cantonment Board Clifton.

Meanwhile, the district returning officer for Karachi's Faisal Cantonment ordered law enforcement officials to expel PTI MNA Muhammad Akram Cheema from the constituency till the end of polling for visiting the constituency and "creating problems [for] voters".

The voting process took place smoothly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well and no major violence was reported.

KP Inspector General of Police Moazzam Jah Ansari told media that counterfeit polling material had been found in the pockets of some people in Nowshera who were arrested and referred for legal action.

The provincial election commissioner, Sharifullah, said the situation was under control and the voting process remained unhindered across KP.

He said no MPA or minister was allowed to visit any polling station. He said he was looking into the reports of a female lawmaker visiting a polling station.

In Balochistan, polling continued uninterrupted between 8am and 5pm in the Quetta, Zhob and Loralai cantonment boards.

At a polling station in Quetta, supporters of the PTI and Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) came to blows after a woman was barred from voting. At least one man was injured in the clash and was shifted to hospital. Police and Frontier Corps personnel dispersed the two groups.

The ECP on Saturday announced that it had completed all the necessary arrangements for the cantonment elections.

The regulator also issued separate codes of conduct for personnel of law enforcement agencies, independent election observers and media persons for the polling day.

A total of 1,513 candidates contested the polls to win general member seats in 206 wards of the cantonment boards. There are 878 candidates in 112 wards of 19 cantonments in Punjab; 418 in 53 wards of eight cantonments in Sindh; 170 candidates in 33 wards of nine cantonments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and 47 candidates are in the field in eight wards of three cantonments in Balochistan.

The PTI fielded the highest number of 178 candidates in all the four provinces, followed by the PML-N and the PPP, which are in the electoral race with 140 and 112 candidates, respectively. The PML-N, however, did not nominate any candidate in Balochistan.

Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) is at number four with 105 candidates contesting the elections in the four provinces.

The urban Sindh-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) also fielded 41 and 33 candidates, respectively, in the cantonment boards located in Karachi and Hyderabad.

The TLP, which was banned by the government under the Anti-Terrorism Act some five months back, surprised many by fielding 84 candidates in 17 cantonments in three provinces.

In all the 42 cantonments, 2,197,441 voters (1,154,551 men and 1,043,190 women) are registered. According to the ECP, 5,080 polling booths were set up in 1,644 polling stations.

The Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) is also monitoring the cantonment board elections for the first time with the deployment of 74 male and 46 female observers. According to an official announcement by Fafen, these 120 observers will monitor the voting and counting processes at around 460 polling stations, almost 30 per cent of the total polling stations. Fafen will release its observation report on September 15 to media and other stakeholders.

The cantonments where elections are being held are Rawalpindi, Chaklala, Wah, Taxila, Murree, Attock, Sanjwal, Jhelum, Mangla, Sargodha, Shorkot, Gujranwala, Kharian, Sialkot, Lahore, Walton, Okara, Multan and Bahawalpur (Punjab); Hyderabad, Karachi, Clifton, Malir, Faisal, Korangi Creek, Manora and Panno Aqil (Sindh); Peshawar, Risalpur, Nowshera, Mardan, Kohat, Bannu, D.I. Khan, Abbottabad and Havelian (KP); and Quetta, Zhob and Loralai (Balochistan).

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